The recent kidnap of Prof. Kaneme Okonjo, the mother of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and two other women, Mrs. Titilayo Rotimi and Nollywood actress, Miss Nkiru Sylvanus within one month is a pointer to the fact that the fight against kidnapping is yet to yield the expected results. If anything, the nation is fast losing the battle against kidnapping.
The public, as usual, are helpless and waiting to hear about who the next victim will be. While Prof. Okonjo was kidnapped at her home in Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State, Rotimi, wife of former governor of defunct Western State, Major-Gen. Oluwole Rotimi (rtd), was whisked away in Ibadan by her abductors and Sylvanus was abducted in Owerri, Imo State.
The Nollywood star is a Special Assistant on Public Affairs to Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State. We recall that kidnapping started in the Niger-Delta region some years ago as a means of calling attention to the environmental degradation in the oil bearing states of the region that arose from many years of oil exploration and exploitation.
From kidnapping of expatriate oil workers for ransom, it has snowballed into kidnapping of Nigerians, too. Over time, the scourge has grown to a full blown enterprise and is quickly spreading to other parts of the country. The nefarious trade has been well entrenched in the South-South and South-East geo-political zones of the country. From South-West, it will soon enter the Northern part of the country in full swing if nothing is done now to arrest it.
Undoubtedly, huge ransom paid to kidnappers by families of victims is seriously driving the evil trade. The lukewarm attitude of security operatives, especially the police, in tackling the menace is also fueling its rise. Some security operatives and close family members of some of the victims have in the past been implicated in some of the kidnap cases. Rise in high-profile kidnap cases in recent times in the country is traceable to the urge to make quick money. Greed is another factor that lures people to the flourishing industry.
Kidnapping is also a symptom of a dysfunctional society. As long as relations and families of victims are willing to part with huge sums of money to secure their release, so long will the evil trade continue to thrive. Kidnapping will significantly reduce only if no ransom is paid to the practitioners of the trade to secure the freedom of their victims. Unfortunately, government is not winning the war against kidnapping.
It is ironical that government can only issue stern order to security operatives whenever a high-profile person is involved and keep mute when an unknown person is involved. Such hypocrisy or double standard by government is not helping the war against kidnapping. Since kidnapping is technologically-driven, those fighting it must deploy technology to a great advantage if they want to win the war.
There are modern technological gadgets that can assist security operatives in apprehending kidnappers without succumbing to the antics of paying ransom. All security agencies should invest more resources in intelligence gathering. They must also share intelligence among themselves and work in concert in arresting the menace. The helplessness of the police in many cases of kidnapping can no longer be acceptable.
Failure on their part to get cracking on kidnappers will be treated as negligence of duty. Apparently, kidnapping has become a way of life in the country and we want government to do something concrete to stamp it out. It has already given the country a bad image before the comity of nations. A scourge that has gone a notch higher in recent weeks requires drastic measures to contain it. Let the government do the needful and curb the menace forthwith.